Kendall Robertson '23, Katrien Weemaes '21, Katharine Cognard-Black '22 and Julia Tokish '22

Bucknell Top Producer of Fulbright Students

February 13, 2024

by Matt Jones

Fulbright scholars (L to R): Kendall Robertson '23, Katrien Weemaes '21, Katharine Cognard-Black '22 and Julia Tokish '22.

Bucknell University has been named a top producer of Fulbright Students by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This recognition is bestowed upon U.S. colleges and universities that have the highest number of awarded candidates to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Four Bucknellians, chosen from approximately 10,000 applicants nationwide, are studying, conducting research and teaching English abroad as part of the 2023-24 Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a renowned international exchange experience sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and designed to broaden students' understanding of the world.

"Bucknell has some phenomenal students," says Margaret Marr, director for undergraduate fellowship research. "I'm honored to assist them in translating their many accomplishments into strong fellowship and scholarship applications."

Julia Tokish '22

Portrait of Julia Tokish

Julia Tokish '22 visits Warwick Castle while studying at the University of Leicester in England as a Fulbright scholar. Photo by Alexander Osani.

Julia Tokish '22 is attending the University of Leicester in England, where they are pursuing a master's in human rights and global ethics. A triple major in international relations, Arabic & Arab world studies, and theatre & dance from Ramsey, N.J., Tokish has relied on their Bucknell education to help them navigate the world of postgraduate research.

"I am far more confident about conducting research for my thesis due to my work in the Presidential Fellowship program, on dramaturgy in the theatre department, and on my honors thesis through the Arabic program," Tokish says. "And, of course, I wouldn't have gotten involved in Leicester's theatre scene without first becoming so invested in Bucknell's theatre department.”

As part of the master's program in human rights and global ethics, Tokish has taken various classes that explore social justice and human rights, including The Politics of Human Rights, International Security, and Religious Conflict and Coexistence. Now, they are working on their graduate thesis. "I'll be comparing two pending cases at the International Court of Justice — Ukraine v. Russian Federation (2022) and South Africa v. Israel (2023) — and analyzing what they demonstrate about the principle of 'universality' in international human rights law."

In concert with their graduate education, Tokish is volunteering with After18, a Leicester-based charity group that supports unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young refugees adjusting to life in the U.K. Looking ahead, Tokish will attend Georgetown University Law Center in fall 2024. "I'm hoping to pursue international human rights law, with a focus on migration issues, both at Georgetown and in my law career."

Kendall Robertson '23

Portrait of Kendall Robertson

Kendall Robertson '23 is teaching English to refugees in Brussels, Belgium, through the Fulbright Student Program. Photo by Arielle Tycko

Kendall Robertson '23, a double-major in history and French & Francophone studies from Westfield, N.J., lives and works in Belgium, where she has been deepening her study of languages and international relations.

"In my volunteer work at an organization called BELRefugees, I am teaching English to refugees living in Brussels. I am using my experience as a French teaching assistant (TA) to form my lesson plans and create an inclusive environment for the students to learn in," says Roberston. "Additionally, I am beginning Dutch courses and am on my way to learning a third language, which was another one of my goals while in Belgium."

Her immersion into Belgian life and the French language has also served as a conduit for discovering new insights about international relations. As a teaching assistant for a U.S./U.K. history course at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the university she was placed at by the Fulbright Commission, Robertson has learned what it means to be American from a different perspective.

"Assisting in a U.K./U.S. history course, I saw firsthand how history is taught through a Belgian perspective instead of an American one. It was very eye-opening to hear people's opinions about the United States and its role in world affairs," says Roberston. "Studying history at Bucknell, I was challenged in my classes to have difficult conversations about the current world, past atrocities and the legacies they have left on the world today. These conversations have informed how I act now in a foreign country, reminding myself to remain educated, empathetic and attentive."

For Roberston, her time abroad has made her a more empathetic, compassionate and informed person, qualities she believes will serve her well in the international community. She hopes to find a career as a language teacher or as an embassy official in foreign affairs, either in Belgium or back in the States.

Katrien Weemaes '21

Portrait of Katrien Weemaes

Katrien Weemaes '21 serves as an English teaching assistant in Indonesia. Photo by Lexie Corcoran ‘22

Katrien Weemaes '21, an economics and environmental studies double-major from Los Gatos, Calif., stepped away from her position as a government consultant with Deloitte Consulting to travel to Indonesia, where she serves as an English teaching assistant. Weemaes says she believes her time in Indonesia, a country considered especially vulnerable to the realities of climate change, will inform her ultimate career goal, which is to develop and implement policies and strategies to help communities contend with the consequences of climate change.

Her interest in Indonesia is inspired by the country’s commitment to economic development, community resilience and sustainable innovation in the face of looming climate threats. "Many local communities in Indonesia have persisted through recurring natural disasters, yet grow stronger economically while maintaining rich cultural and artistic practices," she says.

Weemaes looks to her time at Bucknell and her relationships with supportive faculty members as one reason for pursuing a Fulbright experience. "They encouraged and challenged me to tackle a variety of academic and artistic endeavors," she says. "I'm extremely grateful for the everlasting connections I made at Bucknell."

Katharine Cognard-Black '22

Portrait of Katharine Cognard Black

Katharine Cognard-Black '22 is studying Shakespeare and creativity at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. Photo courtesy of Katharine Cognard-Black '22

Katharine Cognard-Black '22, a theatre & dance, English — creative writing, and French & Francophone studies triple-major from St. Mary's County, Md., is pursuing a master's in Shakespeare and creativity at the University of Birmingham's Shakespeare Institute in England, where she is co-directing the play Romeo and Her Juliet.

At Bucknell, Cognard-Black's research focused on directing Shakespearian adaptations and devised theatre (when a performance comes together from a collaborative effort rather than a prewritten script). Her senior thesis project, Taming of the Shrew(s), an original adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, questions how and if Taming may be performed ethically in a post-MeToo era. Her adaptation was performed through the Prison Performing Arts (PPA) project in collaboration with actors from the Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Missouri. "I was honored by the opportunity to collaborate with incarcerated populations through PPA, and as a result of that experience, I hope to continue working with similar programs," says Cognard-Black.

"Learning the techniques of acting, devising and directing under mentors, including theatre professors Anjalee Hutchinson and Bryan Vandevender, was formative for my understanding and practice of theatre," she says. "Additionally, studying poetry and fiction under English professors Katie Hays and Robert Rosenberg strengthened my skills as a writer and editor."

Cognard-Black’s time at the University of Birmingham has enabled her to explore theatre as a medium to advocate for social change. In the future, she intends to pursue further graduate training, with the eventual goal of becoming a theatre professor and director who adapts the works of Shakespeare to confront modern injustices.

About the U.S. Fulbright Program

The U.S. Fulbright Program was established over 75 years ago to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. While the primary funding source for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, it benefits from additional support from foreign partner governments, non-governmental organizations, private organizations, corporate partnerships and individual donors. Importantly, U.S. and foreign host institutions provide support as well.